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Technology to Improve and Deliver Food Don Paarlberg A report assessing the world food situation was pre- pared by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as a background paper for the November l974 World Food Conference in Rome. The assessment covers three time periods: the near term related to the l974 crop, the next decade or so, and the long term. In the short term, covering the crop year l974, the picture is a mixed one. In the food exporting countries, food production is increasing markedly. In the U.S. this year we will harvest an all time record crop of wheat and very likely of corn also. Canada and Australia are expanding their output. In the food importing countries, however, particularly in South Asia and also to some extent in Africa, the situation is precarious. Their reserves are depleted and, in view of the current high price of food, their capacity to import food is limited. They are short of fuel and fertilizers. They are more than ordinarily dependent on a good crop this year. If the monsoon is good, and if a good crop comes along, they will be all right. If not, they will be in serious difficulty. In the next decade or so FAO anticipates that food production in the exporting countries will grow rapidly and supplies per capita will continue to increase at a 25

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rate of about l.5 percent a year, which has been the growth rate for some time. In the less developed coun- tries the projection is that aggregate production will be a little ahead of the rate of population increase and per capita supplies will rise about 0.5 percent per year. This average will cover some very grave difficulties in distribution; there will be large population sectors that will experience no improvement and perhaps a worsened situation. On the whole some improvement is expected even in the less developed countries, but there will be a widening of the gap between the developed and the less developed countries in per capita food supply. Substan- tial problems in the transfer of food supplies both from the developed to the less developed countries and within the latter can also be expected. In the long run, projecting into the 2lst century, unless there is some check on the rate of population growth there will be no solution to the world food prob- lem. If present rates of population growth are projected into distant periods, they simply run off the chart. Not only problems of food supply, but others--depleted natural resources, excessive crowding, congestion, polit- ical and social disturbance—are likely to be encountered. We have estimated the United States' capacity to produce food by the year l985. Making certain assump- tions—(l) reasonable weather, (2) farmers will have access to their land and will not be limited on the amount of land they can cultivate, and (3) reasonably attractive prices for farm produce—we anticipate that production of feed grains could increase about 50 percent, wheat about 40 percent, and soybeans about 30 percent over present levels. There appears to be considerable latent capacity for increased food production here and also abroad. TECHNOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITIES IN FOOD AND NUTRITION Turning now to technological opportunities for main- tenance and distribution of foodstuffs, this is the area of food technology that is greatly influenced by engineer- ing. One important topic here is food fortification to supply the nutrient elements lacking in food in its natural state. One of these often lacking, particularly in grain, is amino acid lysine that can be added at a moderate cost. Lysine addition greatly improves the nutritious quality of cereal grains for humans, and adds 2 to l0 percent to the cost, depending on how much, and 26

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which kind of amino acid is added. We know how to do this. We know that the effect is to greatly improve nutrition. However, some people have reservations about food additives, or about any kind of food engineering, and so we have the very human problem of food acceptance. Another promising development is textured soy pro- tein. After oil is extracted from soybeans the meal that is left is very high in protein. With the application of food technology it can be made into textured soy protein and fashioned into a great variety of flavors, shapes and colors. Soy protein costs from l2 to l4 cents per pound, a fraction of what animal protein costs. There are some problems here again of taste and aesthetics, but the acceptance of this product is advancing, and it is one of the most promising areas in the whole food field. The case of soybeans illustrates the interrelated- ness of engineering, economics, aesthetics, food habits, and tradition. Soybeans have been a food product in Asia for thousands of years. The soybean plant was imported into the U.S. about l00 years ago on an experimental basis. We were reluctant, at that time, to consider it a food crop, because we did not want to eat what the Chi- nese were eatingJ Initially we used it as green manure and plowed it under. It was rather expensive though to grow it and then plow it down, so we decided to plant it as a hay crop. We noticed that cattle would eat it; but all the leaves would fall off before it could be brought into the barn, so we soon gave up its use as cattle feed. Then Henry Ford recognized its potential for industrial use; the soybean could be utilized as an industrial raw material. We discovered, however, that petroleum was a much more economic source of industrial plastics. Next we found the oil in the soybean. We squeezed the oil and used it for human food. We called it an oil crop and still do. We discovered later that the meal left after oil extraction was a very valuable livestock feed and worth more than the oil. So it became a food crop. Finally, we have discovered that the meal is an excellent human food. One hundred years later, we are back to where the Chinese were l,000 years ago.' There are other very promising food products that require engineering. However, they also encounter prob- lems of aesthetics and acceptance. One is fish protein concentrate (FPC). Fish is processed and made into a highly nutritious fish meal. It is an excellent human food additive. It can be made very bland so that the fish taste is not noticeable. But people have an aversion to it and will not use it as a human food. As a matter of 27

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fact, we have some rules that outlaw this as a human food. We feed it to chickens. We know technically now how to get animal feed from algae grown on sewage wastes. Indeed, we might in time get human food that way. The extraction of protein from green leaves, and single-celled protein are other possibilities. We have come a long way in engineering food products, but our efforts will not be enough unless we can overcome the human problems of aes- thetics and acceptance, and the problems of economics. INSTITUTIONAL IMPACT AND ACCEPTANCE I am convinced that engineers are far ahead of the social science disciplines when it comes to the capability of solving the world food problem. There is a long, con- tinuing argument between engineers and social scientists. The engineers believe that technical change is good, that more technical change is better, and the best thing would be the most rapid technical change that is possible. For them the relationship between the public good and the rate of technical advance is positive, linear and steep. The social scientists, on the other hand, believe there is an optimum rate of technical change that the institutional arrangement can assimilate and accept without tearing it- self apart. They have doubts about generating technical changes faster than the society can comfortably accept. For example, if agriculture were mechanized in some less developed countries, the resultant unemployment of a great number of people might bring about social unrest and, indeed, disaster. We did it in this country when we mechanized our cotton production at a very rapid rate and caused the unemployment of millions. We had not antici- pated this fact and had made no plans to accommodate the new situation that came about. The unemployed people went to the cities in great numbers and had difficulty being accepted there. Therefore, as we deal with engineering solutions to world food production, we need to keep in mind that social institutions must keep pace with them, and that there is a maximum rate of acceptance of which these institutions are capable. To push beyond that rate may perhaps be an engineering triumph, but it could be a social disaster. TRANSFER OF FOOD SUPPLIES: COST AND EFFICIENCY When we speak about moving our increasing abundance of food to the poorer countries an overriding factor to 28

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be considered is the cost. The technology we now have or will develop cannot always be transferred easily to the less developed world. However, people like you are in a position to help the poorer countries better feed them- selves and become better customers of the U.S. farmer. This effort will require substantial investment of know- how and money. It will take foreign investment in modern- izing overseas port facilities and building roads in the interior to get the food to the people who face the great- est danger of starvation. But perhaps as important as money is the availability of technicians. This is where engineers and other specialists are vitally needed. The development of larger bulk containers for ship- ping farm goods in this country has significantly lowered the cost per unit of product. This applies to ocean transport as well. Shipping in bulk reduces the handling time at the port and streamlines the whole distribution system. Containerization has been one of the greatest innova- tions in our marketing system in years. The benefits, however, have been largely reaped by the industrialized countries. Container ships are heavily plying the ocean lanes between Europe and the east coast of the U.S. But what about Indonesia, for example? It has few ports for such vessels. Container ships require a big investment. Each crane needed to remove the cargo from the ship costs a million dollars or more. Trucks are needed to transport the cargo to destination points, and highways are needed for the trucks. The coastal regions usually have the roadways for food transport, yet the interior regions are often more in need of food. Without the right equipment to handle the commodities dispatched from the modern ships, one ends up with the old scoop shovel, and thereby loses all the efficiency that could be gained from using the larger bulk carriers. Part of the problem of sending vast supplies of grains to foreign countries is that it takes these coun- tries a long time to build the port capacity to handle what is landed on their shores. Besides, they do not have the facilities for shipping food inland. At present, we are sending sorghum to Africa under P.L. 480. Except for Dakar, most of the African ports cannot take cargo from our newer ships. After leaving the ports, the situation becomes even more dismal. Railroads cannot handle the load. As for trucks, they travel on what we would con- sider trails which become loblollies of mud when it rains. It is fortunate that most of our donated grains arrived in Africa soon enough to be moved to the Sahel before the 29

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rainy season, but much of the grain from other countries could deteriorate. Even if the food does get in, storage presents a problem—not just in Africa but in many parts of the developing world. India, for example, has had severe problems in storing food. As much as 20 percent of the food supply is lost to rodents. In parts of Africa, the storage facilities are so bad that the ships often have to fumigate the grain—at a cost of around $25,000—before it is taken ashore. On the brighter side, the introduc- tion of lash vessels will lower the cost of fumigation, since the ship will be able to leave the vessels and retrieve them later. The condition of the waterways in many developing nations hinders food shipment to them. In Bangladesh, the ship Manhattan--one of the biggest ships then afloat — was used as a warehouse. This proved expensive because the ship remained in Bangladesh for more than 6 months. It was unable to leave due to the low water level. Bang- ladesh is just one example of a needy country to which food cannot be delivered economically. Marketing of food costs money, but the cost may be sharply reduced by increasing volume. The unit train, for example, goes from production point to consuming point carrying a commodity, but it cannot make money unless it moves all the time. And that means somebody on the other end has to unload a lot of grain. Because they lack transport facilities, the developing countries often have no one available to move the grain. What we consider pro- gress in marketing is not necessarily viewed that way in the developing countries, because the end result is a higher price for the product. By that I mean packaging and quality maintenance—plastics, and wrappings that pro- tect the products. These savings are resisted by many countries because of the cost. We spend 8 cents of each marketing dollar in the U.S. just for packaging to pro- tect the product; but in the less developed countries, it is sometimes cheaper to lose the product than to package it. The picture is not as bleak as I have painted it. The U.S. has a tremendous capacity to produce food to avert world shortages. It is true that many of the nations most in need of food are ill-equipped to receive it at the ports, to store it, and to transport it to the hungry. But people like you have the know-how to help correct the conditions that make it impossible for some of the world's needy to get the food that we can provide them. This will take money, but without expertise that money will be wasted. 30

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The crux of the problem is expertise, in growing the farm commodities the rest of the world requires, and in getting this food into the mouths of those who need it. This means designing ships that can sail into ports that are now inadequate by our standards, helping foreign coun- tries to design ports that can handle the ships, and designing storage facilities and inland roads to move our great agricultural abundance. 31

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